It seems that just like the wildfires that appeared and swept various states, so too has the #metoo campaign. It’s a hashtag that women are sharing on social media if they’ve ever been sexually harassed or assaulted. And it’s everywhere.
#metoo. Yes, I’m one of the growing number of women sharing that. But I don’t want to talk about my story here. I am also raising a daughter amidst this. This isn’t about her either.
I want to talk about my son.
My son is nearing his teen years. He is a mother’s dream: intelligent and funny, helpful and kind. He is extremely empathetic and respects life and other people. I can already see the amazing young man he is growing into. He is also very trusting of people. That part, while it is a wonderful characteristic, is also the part that scares me.
I know my boy who cuddles our pets and loves to play with his young cousins, would never push himself on a girl. All I have to do to be assured of his goodness is to watch his reaction to bad or sad scenes in movies or to see his eyes well with tears when someone else gets hurt. He is a kind soul, and he would never treat a girl as if he was entitled to her body. He would never do it.
So one day, inevitably he will have a girlfriend or a date that wants to explore sexual acts with him. Whether it is at 16 or 26, it’s going to happen. I feel very strongly that he would only do it if she wanted it too.
What if she regrets it later or lies about it and calls it sexual harassment or rape? What then? Is my son still “at fault” just because he is the male?
When I was in high school, I overheard a group of older girls talking in the locker room before gym class. They were talking about sex. While I had a steady boyfriend, we were not sexually active. But what these girls were discussing was crass and made sex ugly to me. They were telling a friend whose parents had questioned her about her sexual behavior with a neighbor TO LIE AND CALL IT RAPE TO SAVE HER PARENTS’ ANGER. (Let that sink in for a moment….)
I knew it wasn’t right. Looking back, I also know that they were just kids, trying to deal with life the best way their youth and inexperience knew how. I was young and inexperienced too. I did nothing about it. Now I often wonder what ended up happening there. Was that neighbor boy called a rapist? Was he branded as a sexual offender for the rest of his life? Did those girls realize the fire they were playing with? And did they realize that lying about rape is AS BAD as rape? Not only would they ruin that boy’s life, but THEY would then be part of the reason that true rape victims are not always believed. It’s such a sad cycle. It’s scary.
But it happens. Sexual harassment and rape are ugly. It’s one part of humanity that I don’t understand. When there is such beauty in life, why can these people make it ugly within minutes and seemingly without thought?
I have to raise my son the best that I can. I will tell him about this ugly part of our world and how he can be sure that he is not ever -ever- going to be a part of the problem, but too, how he can protect himself against it. And even more likely, how he can protect any girl that he sees on the #metoo side of this, without fail, no matter what. I’m not expecting him to be a ninja or act like a first responder without the skills. I am simply hoping that he can be better than I was. That if he knows better, he can do better. I want him to know that there are always adults around who will listen and that he will be heard, no matter what.
It’s such a tall order for my sweet boy- for any boy. I can only hope that what I do now to prevent a bad situation, will protect him for the rest of his life.
Today, it’s a battle. But I have great hope for the tomorrow that my son will inherit.
Maybe even a tomorrow without the #metoo in it.